Spike in flour prices, wheat shortage on the heels of procurement staggering
ISLAMABAD: The surge in the prices of wheat flour in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and shortage of grains in KP has turned out to be surprising as the annual procurement of the commodity has just concluded in the four provinces.
There are more than sufficient stocks of wheat available in government stores at the moment, providing no justification for increase in prices and wheat shortage for flour millers. However, in view of lesser yield this year for various reasons, such a situation may arise after a few months if wheat was not imported on time.
During a chat with The News, Federal Minister for National Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam suspected that some vested interest has created the prevailing state of affairs. He said wheat will have to be imported but preferred not to give any estimate. “The international wheat prices are more than those of Pakistan, which such elements want to exploit as there is attraction for them in the global market.”
In KP, he said, there has been some 40pc less production this year. He said overall there was less produce because of the climate change especially untimely rains in March and April and yellow rust attack. In Punjab, he said, the wheat procurement has been one of the highest compared to previous years. Sindh has also met the procurement target.
Punjab Food Minister Aleem Khan has admitted in two tweets increase in flour prices. “Farmer brothers have been paid full compensation for their hard work in the wheat procurement campaign and they fully benefited from it. Better price for wheat resulted in hike in flour prices for which the food department has devised its line of action. Recommendation has been sent to the government that the food department be allowed to import wheat so that the wheat requirements of KP and southern areas of Punjab be met. It has to be assured that the commodity is available in surplus in the province so that there is no shortage and the prices remain stable.”
An official said that price hike and wheat shortage immediately after the procurement ended is astonishing. Generally, no such things happen in the first few months of the procurement. It is stated that in KP a 20-kg bag of flour is being sold for Rs1,500 while it costs around Rs1,000 in Punjab. These rates are higher than the price fixed by the governments. The “nanbais” have also increased prices.
Sources said that over the past few weeks, the KP government has persistently urged the Punjab administration to lift ban on wheat movement to its province. The concerned KP officials are in constant touch with their counterparts in Punjab on this issue on emergency basis to avoid any unrest.